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Five differences between an athlete and seasonal- dieters

Posted on December 16 2019

Let’s just start of by saying everyone is an athlete (totally stole that from Philip Maffetone)  but I seriously believe in this. I was working as a personal trainer and group exercise instructor when I was at 32% body fat. I was also doing the same at 14% body fat while competing and still do the same at 20% body fat at my maintenance level.

Everyone is under training for something at some point if you are doing anything fitness. You might be training for an ultra marathon or simply being able to make it to the gym on more days than you drink beer per week. You set a goal and as long as you have a goal, you are competing. You might not be competing with the world, but you still are competing.

However, more often than not I meet clients who want ‘fast results’ and go on ‘fast weight loss diet’s’. Ask anyone on a keto or atkin’s diet if they will sustain this for the rest of their lives and even when they are 60 plus years old? They will tell you ‘no this is only till I lose x kg’s more’. That my dear is seasonal dieting. Athletes don’t seasonal diet. Sure they tweek their macros and calories slightly as per their game day, but there are lifestyle habits that distinguish them from others. Lets discuss some of them here. I insist everyone reading this and to all my clients, take the athlete approach, not a dieters.

  1. Adjust your nutrition instead of going on ‘diets’: Sating “no” to carbs or pizza or rice for 30 days is going on a diet. But instead including your favourite food in moderation and keeping a check on yourself is merely adjusting your nutrition. Its the 80/20 rule. Eat right 80% of the times and cheat 20%. So if you have 5 meals a day, making it 35 meals per week, you can cheat 5-6 meals. Mostly one snack per day is still fine! I mostly eat very clean whole- food and plant- based on weekdays and give myself the freedom to cheat lunch/ dinner over weekends. I still will have a healthy breakfast over weekends and mostly try to include two workout sessions instead of one, but don’t bother much with what I eat. This way I am merely adjusting my nutrition and not restricting any food.
  2. Train instead of working- out: Find that one activity you simply adore. Hold on here though, let me just say that weight training which is like my BAE, my anti- depressant, my escape from the world, my meditation, my everything took me a year to fall in love with! I went, sorry dragged myself to go to the gym 365 days at least against my will and many times cried about not knowing anything or being able to do much. Today, I look forward each day to escape from work and just train with loud headphones on or sessions with my training partner. But anything new will take you time. Don’t crossfit for 2 days and claim ‘this is not for me’ and jump to Zumba to claim again ‘I cannot dance’ to jump to something else. Give yourself time and be patient. Then training will become therapy and you do not have to drag yourself to workout. Athletes enjoy training and getting better at one skill. Sure there will be days you don’t want to get out of bed, we all have them, but 80% of days should be once where you jump out to go train. Honestly, if you give one year of your life to one activity, irrespective of what it is, you will fall in love with it. Just be consistent.
  3. Pay attention to what goes into your body: Athletes make healthy food choices even when no one is watching. I LOVE shisha/ hukka and friends time. My ideal Saturday night would be PJs and having friends over with good food, laughter and shisha. But I know how bad it is for my system and can feel how much it slows me down in the gym the next day. My endurance goes down, I cannot keep up and stamina also goes down even in smoking as little as a few puffs. I have never been a smoker so I guess that is why. Athletes understand how certain food/ habits slow them down and steer clear from them. Do I still do shisha? I believe to stop something you need to reward your body with something better so you are ‘going- up’ instead of ‘giving- up’ . I try and schedule either photoshoots, race’s (like devil’s circuit), some competitions almost all year long so I am constantly training for something. This way I am always in prep mode and I do not like losing. I will not put into my body anything that slow’s me down when in prep mode. The joy of getting better per day outweighs my temptation to smoke. Sure there could be some days I find in between these races where I might smoke but that happens no more than a few times a year and is out of choice than temptation. As a seasonal dieter I would probably smoke weekends and not weekdays or something.
  4. The number on the scale: Athletes are not obsessing over getting the number on the scale down or up. They are chasing goals bigger than that. They understand the number on the scale means nothing unless you feel healthy and fit. I can almost accurately tell you the number my weighing machine will show by the kind of week I have had and just placing my hands around and feeling my waist. Athletes chase the weight they are lifting, or the time the can complete a task in or how the mirror speaks to them. You could lose weight by going off food and water for a few days. Sure the number on the scale will go down but thats not positive results. Seasonal dieters only chase the scale while athletes train with bigger goals in mind.
  5. Outweighing one while compensating the other: Seasonal dieters will try to eat lesser and lesser calories but not workout or try to over train but not eat right. Athletes understand that the body needs right fueling, right supplementation, right rest and right amount of training all in proportion with one another. You cannot outweigh one for the other. Fat loss/ gain is much more than calories- in and calories- out. A donut will take you 75 minutes of brisk walking to burn out. Do we even think we can burn out everything we eat? Exercise helps build muscle mass and the increase in muscle mass boosts your metabolism. In order to recover your body from wear and tear of muscles during exercise, your body burns calories also. To repair and build you need to fuel right. This is how you achieve long- term sustainable results. One is dependent on the other. Athletes understand this and don’t try to outweigh one with the other.

In closing make sustainable and small lifestyle changes instead of fast but short lived changes. Aim to be an athlete and not a seasonal dieter.

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